BEREA: Browns General Manager Ray Farmer’s decision to trade down from the No. 4 pick and allow the Buffalo Bills to draft Clemson’s Sammy Watkins was second-guessed Friday after ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is facing a one-year suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.
According to ESPN, Gordon’s failed test was months ago, this time for marijuana.
Gordon was suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season, but he blamed it on prescription cough medicine that contained codeine.
Sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that the Browns’ front office was aware of Gordon’s failed drug test two weeks ago, but league rules prevented owner Jimmy Haslam and Farmer from telling coach Mike Pettine and his staff. Mortensen reported via Twitter that the coaches didn’t learn the news until about 90 minutes before the second round of the draft began Friday.
The Browns did not comment, directing questions to the league office. NFL executives in New York did not respond to emails.
ESPN reached Gordon by telephone Friday afternoon, but Gordon said, “I really don’t know anything about it,” and told the caller to speak to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Rosenhaus declined comment except to say the information was “not true.”
Gordon was interviewed by ESPN on Friday morning about the Browns’ selection of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, but neither the network nor Gordon gave any hint of the news to come.
Gordon’s base salary for next season is $825,604, according to the NFL Players Association’s website. Other receivers on the Browns’ roster are Greg Little, Nate Burleson, slot receiver Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin, Tori Gurley, Josh Cooper and Conner Vernon. Benjamin suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee returning a punt Oct. 27 against the Kansas City Chiefs and is not expected back until at least training camp.
Gordon had a Pro Bowl season last year, setting franchise records with 1,646 receiving yards and seven 100-yard games, including four in a row.
Gordon also failed three marijuana tests in college, but former Browns General Manager Tom Heckert took him in the second round of the supplemental draft in 2012. When he returned from suspension last September, Gordon said he believed he’d face a full-season ban if he slipped up again.
“I think that’s what it is,” Gordon said then. “I feel like it’s a last-chance opportunity for the league. Nobody wants a problematic type of person in their organization. I definitely want to stay away from any controversy as long as I can, forever. That’s my No. 1 priority.”
The draft’s top receiver, Watkins was available when the Browns were on the clock with the No. 4 pick Thursday night. But Farmer traded down to No. 9 with the Buffalo Bills, picking up the Bills’ first- and fourth-round picks in 2015, and the Bills took Watkins. Then the Browns traded up to No. 8 and selected Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. The Browns later traded up from No. 26 to 22 to select Manziel.
The Browns also passed on a receiver with the 35th overall pick Friday even though Marqise Lee of USC remained undrafted.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.